This is Lili's OLD WEBSITE! Go to liliwilkinson.com.au for the shiny, better, more up-to-date, awesome version.

25 December 2006

I'm dreaming of a...

...White Christmas...
No, wait. Not dreaming. It actually IS white. Last week it was the hottest night on record ever for Melbourne. Today our backyard is white with hail. It's freezing!

Merry Christmas, one and all!

23 December 2006

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Colour me underwhelmed.

What is a Hallow, anyway?

Christmas Comes Early

So. Excited.

(and it's on my birthday, too!)

18 December 2006

Christmas Fun for All the Family

I stole this idea from someone else's blog, but I cannot for the life of me remember which or whose. So apologies, whoever you are, and thanks.

I had some very dear friends over for a pre-Christmas Christmas dinner on the weekend: pudding, turkey, ham, singing - the lot. And with each Christmas cracker, each friend got a little parcel full of crafty items like googly eyes, ribbon, bells and pipe-cleaners. And they had to use all these things, PLUS whatever they got in their cracker, to make their Christmas Hats. Here are the results, with apologies for some really terrible photography:

Byron, "Suspended Babies":

Canoe, "Watching Bingo":

Jelly, "Jungle Dominos":

The Munkey "Googly Altar":

Snazzalicious "Cannibal Baby Throne":

and yours truly, "House of Eliot, Kindergarten Style"
Merry Christmas!

Shh!

It's not every day you meet a real live action figure. But today, we State Library staff were lucky enough for this lady to come and speak to us:

Her name is Nancy Pearl, and she is much better looking in real life. Her action figure outsells Beethoven's, Mozart's and Jesus'. Nancy is probably the most famous librarian in the world.

She talks about reading. More specifically, how to recommend books to people. The right books. This is what I learnt:

Don’t recommend books you love, just because you love them. Everyone has different taste.

So how do you know what to suggest?

Ask them this question: “tell me about a book you liked”. Don’t ask what the book is about, that’s a different question. The way that they answer will tell you a lot about what sort of thing they're looking for. Did they say "I couldn't put it down" or "I felt like I had always known the main character" or "It was like I was really there" or "it was just so beautifully written"?

Nancy says that there are 4 doors into reading: Story, Character, Setting and Language. People generally tend to enter books through one of those doors. If you enter through Story, then chances are you’ll enjoy other books that are primarily Story. Like The Da Vinci Code. Or Harry Potter. Or Stephen King.

Character readers will like Georgette Heyer, biographies, Bridget Jones.

Setting readers might like Bernard Cornwell. Or Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Or William Gibson. Much fantasy falls into this category.

Language books have the smallest readership, but win the most awards. Here you’ll find A S Byatt, Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth and Margaret Atwood. I’d also argue that you’d find Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde and PG Wodehouse here, too.

Some people might read, say, Master and Commander because they are a Character reader, and love the relationship between Aubrey and whatsisname (you know. Paul Bettany). But a Setting reader loves it because of the boats and the water and the history.

There are of course authors like Jane Austen and Tim Winton who have four equally sized doors. This is because they are awfully clever.

Try it. Write down five books you love, and figure out what door(s) you generally enter through. Here are mine.

  1. The Last Samurai (Language, Character)
  2. Alice in Wonderland (Setting)
  3. Fire and Hemlock (Character, Story)
  4. Love that Dog (Language)
  5. Skellig (Language)

(This surprises me. I would have said I was more of a Story person.)

12 December 2006

Tis the Season

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Neither. Don’t like dairy beverages.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Is there somewhere in the world where Santa doesn’t wrap presents? I mean, I know, the trees… but really...

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
White.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
I don’t think we have mistletoe in Australia (goes off to google). It’s a parasite! Spread around by the Mistle Thrush (I shit you not). We do have it in Australia: more than 240 species of birds that nest in foliage in Australia have been recorded nesting in mistletoe, representing more than 75% of the resident avifauna. (from wikipedia). The Norse God Baldur was killed with a weapon made from mistletoe. It is also known as the “vampire plant”.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Some time in the first week of December, and leave them up until Twelfth Night.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Everything. Turkey. Stuffing. Bread sauce. Gravy. Biodynamic organic ham. pudding on fire with rum custard. mince pies. trifle.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
Putting up the Christmas tree listening to A Disney Family Christmas on CD. I still do this every year.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I barged in on my mother in the shower, aged 7, and demanded that she had to tell me the truth. She said she couldn’t lie to me.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
No.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
Fairy lights, gold and red baubles, and lots of little bits and pieces collected over the years. Most recent additions: a Tweedledee and Tweedledum from the Sheep Shop in Oxford, and a glittery little HMS Victory from St Paul’s.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love it. Unfortunately not much of it around in Australia in December. But I did have one beautiful white Christmas in the Japanese mountains at a hot springs resort one year… but really, I like the complete incongruity of eating pudding and roast beast when it’s 36 degrees outside…

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes, but not very well. I don’t really see much point in going round and round in circles until some fat kid barrels into you and knocks you down.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
My grandpa hand-made me an amazing dollshouse one year. Later on, my parents made me give it to my younger cousins, and they trashed it and left it out on their porch in the rain. I rescued it, and spent a large part of my last year of high school lovingly restoring it*. It now has fancy tiny wallpaper and tiny plaster ceiling roses and a fireplace that really lights up.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Food. Also family, but only if there’s food.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Pudding. We make ours in November, and I regularly open them up and pour in more rum. They are deadly.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Making a full traditional Christmas dinner for my friends the week before Christmas, where we sing carols, drink far too much and watch The Muppet Christmas Carol.

17. What tops your tree?
A red and gold angel called Poppet Fancypants. Last year a spider crawled up her skirt and made a nest.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Giving. I know that sounds very selfless of me, but it’s really all about me. I love the praise when I pick the perfect present. I also like wrapping things fancily.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Favourite Carol is O Holy Night. Favourite songs are Sleigh Ride, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and One More Sleep Til Christmas.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
I like them in theory. But they give me a tummy ache.

(I stole this meme from a number of people. You know who you are.)

____________________________________________________
*That makes me sound like I was very boring in Year 12. For the record: I also had a boyfriend, went out nearly every weekend and drank a reasonable amount of beer. See? You can be cool and interested in Craft at the same time. True story.

09 December 2006

Smoke and Sesame

There's something very unnerving about the smell of bushfire smoke. It's 37 degrees celsius today, and 170 000 hectares of Victoria are on fire. It's not a cloudy day, but you can't see the sky for smoke. It's setting off people's smoke alarms even in the inner city.

I'm trying to put the finishing touches on this last draft of my novel, but it's hard when it's so hot, and the smoke is making my eyes water.

So I thought I'd take a minute to say a few words about a documentary I watched recently, called The World According to Sesame Street.

It's about all the different versions of Sesame Street all over the world - there are 120 - and how Sesame Street tries to provide education to all kids - not just ones in privileged countries.

It was a seriously revolutionary idea, back in 1968, that TV could actually teach kids stuff. Joan Ganz Cooney had the wacky thought that you could use advertising techniques to help kids learn, "instead of selling them soda or candy, we're selling them the alphabet". She approached Jim Henson to come on board with his Muppets, and an international sensation was born. 4134 episodes (and 109 Emmys) of American Sesame Street later, it's one of the most successful, popular, critically acclaimed and long-running TV shows of all time.

It seems an incredibly un-American thing, the way that Sesame Workshop works with other countries to form a new, unique Sesame Street, tailor-made to appeal to the kids of that country. Whether it's incorporating traditional hand-puppets in the Bangladeshi Sisimpur, or introducing Kami, an HIV positive muppet in South Africa's Takalani Sesame, or exploring race relations and promoting tolerance in Kosovo's Rruga Sesam (Albanian) and Ulica Sezam (Serbian). This isn't about imposing American popular culture on the rest of the world, it's about taking a good idea and adapting it to suit each country's requirements.

"The only kids who can identify along racial lines with the Muppets have to be either green or orange."
--Jim Henson

The documentary itself wasn't fantastic. There was far too much footage of grownups in meetings, and not nearly enough of kids, and how watching Sesame Street has influenced them.

I read a great story about an Israeli/Palestinian Sesame pilot, in Jim Henson's time. They asked some Israeli children what they would do if they saw a Palestinian child in their street. The kids replied "I would throw stones at him". They showed the kids this Sesame pilot, and asked the same question. The kids replied "I would go and play with him".

It's these sorts of stories that give you hope for the future. And brilliant documentary or no, I spent most of The World According to Sesame Street with tears running down my face.

You rock, Sesame Workshop people. You are doing more for our children and their future than any politician is.

07 December 2006

Text Appeal

We held our first literary speed dating event last night, and it rocked.

50 people of all ages, temperaments, genders and sexual orientation came in and met new people, drank some wine and talked about books.

The vibe was amazing. Really amazing. It felt like we were doing a really good thing - bringing people together over their love of literature. Isn't that what it's all about, folks?

Anyway, we're tallying the responses today and hopefully we'll have some bona fide romances!

For the interested, here is the list of what books everyone brought:

BOYS
Housekeeping by M Robinson
Everyday Zen by C Joko Beck
Archy's Life of Mehitabel by Don Marquis
Third Reich by R J Evans
Magician by R Feist
Story of O by P Reage (yeah, someone really brought it)
Michael Palin: Diaries
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by J S Foer
Norwegian Wood by H Murakami
Give the Anarchist a Cigarette by M Farren
On the Ceiling by E Chevillard
The Family of Man by E Steichen
The Rattle Bag by T Hughes
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
A Merry Dance Around the Work by Eric Newby
The Time Traveller's Wife by A Niffenegger
Daywalks around Melbourne
Metamorphosis by F Kafka
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelley
On Beauty by Z Smith
Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen

GIRLS
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
About a Boy by Nick Hornby
The Kinky Friedman Crime Club by K Friedman
The Accidental by A Smith
Slaughterhouse 5 by K Vonnegut
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
The Plague by Albert Camus
Venetian Stories by J T Rylands
The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo
Bravemouth by P Stevenson
The Broken Shore by P Temple
Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
Every Day a New Beginning by S Dowrick
My Brother Jack by G Johnston
THUD by T Pratchett
The Little Prince by A Saint-Exupery
Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
The Hero and the Crown by R McKinley
The Passion by J Winterson
The Inheritance of Loss by K Desai
The Telling by U LeGuin
Momo by Michael Ende

04 December 2006

Stella Gibbons's novel Cold Comfort Farm is a masterpiece

That's the opening line of this article in the Guardian.

And it is so very, very true.

Cold Comfort Farm is one of my very most favouritest books. I have no idea why it isn't on my books interests thing for this blog. I must rectify that.

If you have seen the film, but not read the book: forget about the film. The film is a light, insubstantial piece of cinematic fluff. The book is a hilarious, biting satire that really, really is a masterpiece.

I was first introduced to CCF via a radio play which my Mum bought me on cassette. It was very funny, so I bought the book.

The thing that neither radio play nor film mention, is that CCF is set in the future. Except it was written in 1932, but set maybe in the 40s. Stella predicted video-phones (but only in public phone boxes, and mostly people still send telegrams), air-taxis (but most people still travel by horse-and-buggy or car), and World War Two (but only in a brief mention). It's quite confusing, because everything else about the novel is very vintagely 30s. It's also fascinating and hilarous.

So go read it. Please. And if possible, read it out loud to a friend. With funny voices.

(some favourite moments)

'It is quite unneccesary for a young woman to resemble St Francis of Assisi. And in your case it would be downright suicidal.'

Aunt Ada Doom: I saw something nasty in the woodshed!
Mr Neck: Did it see you?

Flora: I think if I find that I have any cousins called Seth or Rueben, I shall decide not to go.
Mary: Why?
Flora: Because highly sexed young men living on farms are nearly always called Seth or Rueben. And it would be such a nuisance!

02 December 2006

How to Edit Your Novel

8am: get out of bed, eat breakfast, shower, read some book (not mine).

9am: sit down in front of computer.

9:01: check email

9:05: bid on camper boots on ebay

9:08: check bloglines

9:30 check work email

9:31 open word document containing novel

9:32 get on research tangent involving wikipedia

10:00 morning tea. read book (not mine).

10:30 discuss colour of skirting boards with father

10:35 play with puppy

10:45 sit down in front of computer

10:46 check email, bloglines, work email and ebay items again

11:05 check christmas music in iTunes - create playlist

11:15 look at novel. feel sick.

11:17 do word count. feel better.

11:19 talk to mother about how many mince pies will need to be made this year

11:30 clean bedroom

12:30 lunch. read book (not mine).

1:00 think about decorating new flat. pull out things to be framed.

1:30 go to framing shop to discuss framing

2:30 go and look in bookshop. don't have my book. scowl at innocent shop assistant.

3:00 inspect skirting boards at new flat. approve of new colour.

3:15 back home, afternoon tea (cake). read book (not mine).

3:30 check email, bloglines, work email. have won ebay item. do paypal thing.

3:45 get christmas tree down from shed annexe.

4:00 put up christmas tree. listen to frank sinatra and disney christmas mix.

5:00 sit down at computer. open novel. check that all chapter headings are formatted the same.

5:30 decide to make timeline. look around for biro.

5:45 find biro.

6:00 write "timeline" at top of blank sheet of paper.

6:03 chew biro

6:04 fill mouth with ink.

6:20 emerge from bathroom, tasting listerine.

6:21 mother announces dinner is ready.

7:00 watch abc news.

7:30 play with puppy.

8:00 write stupid blog post.

8:15 ??? we shall see...

28 November 2006

Of rattlesnakes and ruby slippers

I ran down some stairs today, and one of my shoes slipped off and stayed behind. Just like Cinderella. Except they were red shoes, so maybe it's more like Dorothy, or that poppet from the Andersen story. Which means that a) I'll live happily ever after (like Cinderella), and b) I will be cruelly punished for looking beyond my narrow sphere of existence (like Dorothy and the poppet). Nice.

In other news, my mother has won the Kalbacher Klapperschlange . Yeah, I think it sounds rude too. But it's the German Children's Choice Award. (A Klapperschlange is a rattlesnake). The Germans are clearly nuts about dragons, because Christopher Paolini and Cornelia Funke have won it in the past... So, go Mum!

(can I have my dinner now?)

26 November 2006

democracy is coming

After discharging my democratic duty on Saturday, I came home and picked up Wide Awake, by David Levithan.

What an apt choice, for an election day.

The book is set in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future, the day after the first gay Jewish president of the USA has been voted in. In this future world, the war and the terror and the fear got very very bad. It got so bad that finally people said 'stop'. And then came the Jesus Revolution, where the answer to the ultimate question (What Would Jesus Do?) was answered. The answer was, Jesus would wave around the love, the compassion, the understanding. Regardless of who you are. There's no 'unless' that comes after 'love thy neighbour'.

So it was the Christians who saved the day, in the end. And other people joined them in their
message of love and peace and tolerance. And so the gay Jewish president was elected.

Except some official people in Kansas didn't like that (because no matter how good things get, there's always going to be some redneck fuckers out there), and they demanded a recount. So Stein (gayjewishpresidentelect) asks everyone who voted for him to come to Kansas and prove it. So they did. Millions and millions of them.

And I thought about that, sitting in the sun reading. And I thought about how excited I get when I watch the West Wing, and how it makes me so goddamn proud to be an American, even though a) I'm not an American and b) I spend most of my time spitting vitriol at the current American government. And I thought about how I felt when I voted.

And I felt sad. I wish there was a politician or political party in this country that I could get that excited about. I wish there was someone I believed in so utterly that I'd drop everything and go to Kansas just to show the world that I care.

Anyway, this wasn't meant to turn into a rant. So stop reading this and go read books by David Levithan. He has an awesome ability to tell you about how crap our world is, not by whinging about it, but by showing you how great the world would be if things were different. It's a positive and beautiful way of trying to change the world.

17 November 2006

What kind of reader are you?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

Literate Good Citizen

Book Snob

Fad Reader

Non-Reader

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

(i stole this from emma)

15 November 2006

Text Appeal

I found love in a book and now I'm looking for someone to share it with.


Looking for love this summer? Bring a favourite or recently read book to literary speed dating at the State Library of Victoria. As the wine and conversation flow you may begin your own chapter with that someone special.

Dec 6 2006, Jan 17 and Feb 14 2007
7 – 8.30pm
$20 per session (drinks included)
THREE people for the price of TWO
E XPE R IME D I A
State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston Street
Melbourne

Bookings and registrations 8664 7555 or learning@slv.vic.gov.au
Registation forms can be downloaded slv.vic.gov.au/programs/events

11 November 2006

Where do you get your ideas from?

Ahh, that timeless chestnut. Well I have an answer, along with an explanatory photostory.

The secret is this: I get my ideas from my puppy.

What follows is a small extract from a draft of Scatterheart, with photos of how I got the idea.

Frothing at the mouth, the dogs made straight for the bear, slashing at its side with their teeth in a manic frenzy.


The crowd cried out with joy as red blood was splashed onto the ice. The bear whipped around, quicker than Hannah would have believed possible, swatting at the dogs with a great clawed paw.


One of them was tossed across the ring, yelping in pain, but it sprang back to its feet again and resumed its attack.


Fur was torn from flesh, and blood flowed freely.


See? It's that simple. All you need is a puppy, and some interesting props.

10 November 2006

09 November 2006

Ding dong, the witch resigned

Let's get nostalgic about Rumsfeld:

"I believe what I said yesterday. I don't know what I said, but I know what I think... and I assume it's what I said."

"We do know of certain knowledge that he (Osama Bin Laden) is either in Afghanistan, or in some other country, or dead."

"I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past - I think the past was not predictable when it started."

and of course...

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."

08 November 2006

An Inconvenient Truth: free

I have just learnt from Emma that Intrepid Travel want you to see Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. They really want you to see it. So much so, that if you send them your ticket stub (and your family's, friends' and colleagues'), they'll reimburse you.

That's awesome.

(oh, and if you haven't - totally go see it. it'll change the way you see the world)

48 things you could care less about

1. First Name? Lili. Friends call me Lil. I have never had a successful nickname, much to the consternation of Jellyfish.

2. Were you named after anyone? Mum saw an ad advertising a Lily Tomlin performance, that had spelled it Lili Tomlin. She thought it was cool. I think it's cool that I'm technically named after someone who was in both Big Business and The West Wing.

3. When did you last cry? West Wing again. Watching the very last episode in Venice and realising there would never be any more. This is what turns people to fanfic...

4. Do you like your handwriting? Sometimes. It is either creatively messy, or ugly and illegible.

5. What is your favourite lunchmeat? Casalinga salami.

6. If you were another person would you be friends with you? I'd like to think so, but I reckon I'd get regularly pissed with me.

7. Do you have a journal? Does this count?

8. Do you still have your tonsils? Yes.

9. Would you bungee jump? No. But I'd paraglide. I much prefer the idea of 'flying' to 'falling'.

10. What is your favourite cereal? Good muesli with lots of strange crunchy seeds and things, with plain yoghurt.

11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? No. Not enough hours in the day.

12. Do you think you are strong? On the inside.

13. What is your favourite ice-cream flavour? Baci.

14. Shoe size? 7 1/2

15. Red or pink? Tough call. Pink for casual, red for work/formal.

16. What is the least favourite thing about yourself? Right now, it's the number that just came up on the scales when I weighed myself. So I'm shallow, deal.

17. Who do you miss most? Right now? The Munkey who is sunning his fur up north. DVD nights aint the same without him.

18. Do you want everyone to send this back to you? If other people feel it would aid them in procrastination, then they should do it.

19. What colour pants, shirt and shoes are you wearing? Brown pants. Blue tshirt. Ugg boots.

20. Last thing you ate? A ridiculously expensive banana. I figure I don't buy coffee or cigarettes, so bananas can be my Habit.

21. What are you listening to right now? James Taylor's Fire and Rain.

22. If you were a crayon what colour would you be? A rosy pink.

23. Favourite smell? Rain on a hot day. Jasmine.

24. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone? Someone trying to sell me something. I was rude.

25. The first thing you notice about people you are attracted to? Height.

26. Do you like who you stole this off? Yes. Looking forward to her next book.

27. Favourite drink? Buddha's Tears tea. Red wine. Hot toddies. Melbourne tap water.

28. Favourite sport? I like watching the cricket. I have a theory about cricket and lobsters, that I may explain during summer.

29. Eye colour? Blue.

30. Hat size? Is that a question that anyone really knows the answer to?

31. Do you wear contacts? No. Glasses for reading and computering.

32. Favourite food? Cheese. Souvlaki. Bananas. My mum's pumpkin soup. Mashed potato. Shitake mushrooms.

33. Scary movies or happy endings? Depends. Scary movies if they're really scary. Happy endings if they're not too cloying.

34. If you could live anywhere in the world where would that be? In the flat in North Fitzroy where I will be living by the end of the year. Venice.

35. Summer or winter? Summer. But I like that it's balanced out with winter.

36. Hugs or kisses? Both. But hugs, if I had to choose.

37. Favourite dessert? Dark chocolate and fresh fruit.

38. Who is most likely to respond? Probably no one is procrastinating as hard as me right now.

39. Least likely to respond? How long is a piece of string?

40. What books are you currently reading? The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes (again). We Are the Weathermakers by Tim Flannery.

41. What's on your mouse pad? Seriously, who has mouse pads anymore? When was this meme created?

42. What did you watch on TV last night? The ABC News, the 7:30 Report (both depressing) and season 1 finale of Grey's Anatomy. I knew that handsome doctor was too good to be true...

43. Favourite sounds? The tapping of my keyboard. Magpies. Cello.

44. Rolling Stones or Beatles? Beatles.

45. The furthest you have been from home? The Isle of Skye, Scotland.

46. What's your special talent? I can tie a cherry stalk in a knot with my tongue.

47. Where were you born? About 7 metres from where I'm currently sitting, in my parents' house.

48. Who sent this to you? I nicked it from Penni.

04 November 2006

help: why men suck

(this post is not meant to be offensive to men. there are lots of nice men. but some of them suck.)

I need to give the reader more clues that the bad guy is bad.

So. What are the little things that a man could do that tells us He Is Not A Gentleman?

Like...

-buying himself an icecream and not asking if she wants one.
-laying his jacket over a wet park bench, but sitting on it himself, leaving her to get wet.
-when she complains about the above two points, he tells her she's just being over emotional.

More? Please?

02 November 2006

NAFADOYBIMSCOM

The inestimable John Green has declared November to be NAFADOYBIMSCOM.

It's sort of a spin-off of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, where entrants attempt to write an entire novel or novella during the month of November.

NAFADOYBIMSCOM is also known as National Finish A Draft Of Your Book I Mean Seriously Come On Month.

So I'm gonna go do that now, as an international participant.

01 November 2006

Things you overhear in the office...

Do you have to tell someone you're a nun?

So exactly how pink are we talking?

We need a rapper-dude. Stop laughing. Yes, I'm old.

My body needs to expel something. Time to have a baby.

27 October 2006

What were you doing at 6:43pm this evening?

I was driving round and round Albert Park lake, waving my fancy evening-wear skirt in front of the car's air vents, desperately trying to dry the dog-vomit off before I disembarked to attend the Children's Charity Network Annual Dinner-y Thing. Mental note: dog gets carsick.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig


Good things about being home:
-toast
-short-life milk
-friends & family
-the puppy's trembling, ecstatic welcome
-finding signed copies of The Last Days and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist on my desk
-reading The Last Days and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.

Bad things about being home:
-jetlag
-bad news from people I love.

17 September 2006

pointing over there

I'm going to be the Writer in Residence on insideadog.com.au for the next few weeks. So you can find me blogging there. With pictures.

14 September 2006

Singing and dancing and making people happy

Over the past two nights, I've been lucky enough to see two West End musicals. The two best musicals I've ever seen, in fact.

#1 was Wicked, the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West became Wicked. It's a truly heartbreaking story, made all the more so by Idina Menzel's amazing performance as Elpheba, which she made her own when the show first started on Broadway. The name Elpheba, by the way, was coined by Gregory Maguire (who wrote the book on which the musical is based) in honour of The Wizard of Oz's first author - L Frank Baum. L F B. Elpheba.
The audience was wild. When Idina first walked on stage, the whole production had to stop for a minute while the crowd whistled and stamped and cheered. I can't imagine an Australian audience responding so vocally to a musical.

#2 musical was Avenue Q. For those of you who aren't familiar with it... well, it kind of defies explanation. It's a musical. About a bunch of misfits living all the way out in Avenue Q in New York. They fall in love, get their hearts broken, struggle with sexuality, wonder about what their purpose is, get drunk and have sex. They sing songs with names like "What Do You Do With A BA In English?" and "The Internet is for Porn" and "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist". The superintendant of the building is child-star Gary Coleman. Oh, and half the gang are muppets.
Again, one of the best things about seeing the show was feeling the buzz from the audience. You could feel the uncertainty at the beginning, it was clear that pretty much nobody was familar with the show. When the lead guy walked on stage for the first time with a muppet on his arm, the audience squirmed and looked doubtful. Then he started singing. The audience started laughing. They kept laughing for much of the first act. They cheered wildly when one of the characters came out of the closet. They threw coins into hats in the Money Song. They loved it. I loved it.

(This post is dedicated to Jellyfish, who introduced me to both musicals, and is probably now as green as Elpheba with envy.)

13 September 2006

London: Like/Don't Like

I like... the way that the train conductor tells you exactly why you aren't moving.
I don't like... the way he tells you it's because there is someone underneath the train.

I like... the way barmen kick very drunk men out of pubs.
I don't like... the way the very drunk man "accidentally" groped me. (casing him to get thrown out of said pub)

I like... that it's not raining.
I don't like... the fact that it's 30 degrees and I only brought three tshirts. Who knows where to buy cool tshirts in London?

I like... the view from the top of St Paul's.
I don't like... the way my legs no longer work after climbing to the top.

I like... having a semi-spiritual moment in front of Randolph Caldecott's memorial in a crypt.
I don't like... being looked at funny for crying over some dead children's literature illustrator.

I like... the St Paul's audio tour. Highly recommended.
I don't like... the Globe guided tour. Ripoff.

10 September 2006

So if you care to find me, look to the western sky

I've packed my bag. I've bid farewell to my loved ones. I've checked in (love online checkin. also love seatguru).

See you in London...

09 September 2006

Reviews

Some Joan reviews:

A remarkable story... What are we to make of this Maid of Orleans? Fascinating!
(New Life Christian Newspaper - which is so enthusiastic in its book reviews that there are at least four exclamation marks per four-paragraph review)

A must read... a very accessible medieval history...
(I don't know what this is from, I just have a photocopy. But I think it's a Queensland Christian publication of some sort)

The author takes the reader on a journey through Joan's life... very appealing... a bit emotional at times.
(Gabrielle, aged 14)

Wilkinson's book is very exciting: I had to put the book down a number of times when the tension she created became too much... I thorougly recommend this book.
(Insights Magazine)

The reader is always eager for more... The effect is to immediately engage the reader... tension and excitement... This book is a rejuvenation of the legend of Joan, which is a part of our common civilisation and of the canon of young people's literature. It will make young people want to read about it.
(Viewpoint Literary Journal)

right, back to packing...

06 September 2006

5 Reasons Why I am Lucky

1. I lost my mobile phone at the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards on Monday night, but Optus is giving me a new phone and sim because they love me.

2. I got wet today in the rain, on the way to pick out some funky marmoleum for my new bathroom floor.

3. I got a tummy-ache last night from eating too much free popcorn at the Macbeth premiere.

4. I missed two days of work last week to do stuff at the Melbourne Writer's Festival and Ivanhoe Grammar. For the first time in my life, teenagers think I'm cool.

5. My bedroom is an absolute disaster area, because I'm packing to go to London on sunday.

04 September 2006

In 20 Years

I wrote this in August 1991, 15 years ago. I was 10.

In 20 years..... I am a famous author and I travel around the world to get ideas for my stories.
When I am in Australia I live in a farm house in the country. When I am not writing
I act in films musicals and operas.
My books will be very long and very interesting. My daughter goes to a lovely school taught by Nikki Michell, who was my best friend in primary school. My daughter is called Hazel and is very talented. The ozone layer was fixed last year so thats one less worry to worry about. My new book 'Luckbearer' is very popular.

Hazel??? Where on earth did that come from?

28 August 2006

Anagrammage

After reading John Green's fabulous An Abundance of Katherines, I started thinking about anagrams.

Wordsmith's anagram generator states: All the life's wisdom can be found in anagrams. Anagrams never lie.

So what do you get when you anagram my name? I thought about it. Maybe something involving ink or skill or owls. Or will or win or lions (or loins).

So I typed in my name, and was confronted with a big long list of gibberish. Some of the strings included the above words, but none that really made any sense. Oh, and there was this one:

kill oil sin win

sounds like the US government's foreign policy, ne?

But what does it say about me???

27 August 2006

My favourite things about regional Victoria (week two of tour)

1. the Eaglehawk cinema. One aged town hall; one screen; twenty sofas; glass of wine; Tristram Shandy. Highly recommended.
2. vanilla slices in Ouyen
3. watching actor Robin literally climb the walls of Gilmore College
4. seeing a wedge-tailed eagle eating a dead kangaroo
5. having reason to say Boort and Manangatang over and over again.

(and not-so-favourite things about regional Victoria)
1. unheated school gyms at 8am
2. the prison-issue furniture and Unpleasent Smell at the Oyuen motel
3. realising in Murrayville that I could be at my grandma's house in Adelaide for lunch, but I wasn't getting back to Melbourne until after dinner.

17 August 2006

My favourite things about regional Victoria (week one of tour)

1. hedgehogs from country bakeries.
2. the secondhand bookshop in Benalla
3. Elizabeth Honey, the Best Car Passenger Ever
4. honeyjoys made by Glenrowan Primary School for Elizabeth Honey
5. actually having a good reason to say Yackandandah, Puckapunyal and Wang.

10 August 2006

Best bookshop ever.

I want to live here. Always.

(it's a bookshop in China, btw. via boingboing)

08 August 2006

somewhat incoherent ramblings on fandom

I've been thinking a lot about fandom, fanaticism and arrogant snobbery.

It started on the weekend when I went to Continuum, a speculative fiction convention here in Melbourne. I was speaking on two panels, one about YA fiction with Margo Lanagan, Lucy Sussex and a couple of other experts, and one about Harry Potter with Shaun Tan and some Young People. And I hung around and went to some other panels and talked to some people.

And the people are all lovely. Okay, some of them are a bit strange, but on the whole, that whole stereotype about the locking-yourself-in-the-basement-with-elf-ears-playing-computer-games is just bollocks.

I went to a panel on Doctor Who. Because it is good and I am totally in love with this man. And as I listened to the panellists talking about Doctor Who fans, and what the fans think of the new Doctor, I slowly started to realise something.

And the something was this: I didn't really care. I love Doctor Who. I also love lots of other so-called-geeky things like Red Dwarf and Blackadder and good fantasy books. But I don't belong in the world of fandom, because I don't care that much. I don't care if something is 'canon'. I don't care if 'kissing is just not Doctor Who'. I just care if it's good, and if it's entertaining. (and if David Tennant is wearing his glasses)

And this feeling of not-belonging made me a bit sad, and quite guilty. Maybe I was just being judgemental? Maybe I am secretly one of those people who sneer at science fiction fans. I always thought I was one of the fans, but I'm just not.

And then last night I went to see a documentary called Darkon, about Live Action Role Playing. It was an entertaining documentary. There were lots of funny bits. But there were also lots of really tragic bits. Like the bit where the school-age boy said that his in-game relationship with a gypsy (not a Relationship, just a relationship) was the first real relationship he's had with a human being that's not his parents. That is sad, and not in the jeering, pointing sense of the word that the rest of the audience clearly saw it as.

I think it's amazing that people can devote so much time and effort and creativity into an imaginary pursuit. It's like the game-playing I used to do as a kid (it's not all that unlike writing novels, really, except the LARPers actually put on clothes and leave the house). It is a Good Thing. More people should play and use their imaginations.

I wanted to kill most of the audience.

They were just a bunch of sniggering, finger-pointing snobs. You think it's funny that these people dress up as knights and fight each other in their spare time. What do you do in your spare time? You watch movies about people who dress up as knights and fight each other! And if you lived in a shitty American suburb and had a shitty job where you were never going to earn enough to be able to get out and do something, then wouldn't you want to do something amazing? And if that amazing thing is just imaginary, then who cares? Imaginary is good.

So all I can conclude (I said it would be incoherent) is that I may not fit in to the world of fandom, but I also don't fit in to the so-called-normal world either.

Maybe I'm like the fat kid from Darkon. Maybe I don't fit in anywhere. That's fine, cause I know a whole bunch of other people who don't fit in anywhere either. So I'm in good company.

04 August 2006

sucks to be me

sucks to be you...

...sucks to be us, but not when we're together...

A defense of the word sucks.

03 August 2006

bookses

There is not enough time in the day. I would very much like to crawl under my desk and fall asleep. That’s my excuse for this meme, instead of a proper post.

(oh and because READING GETS YOU LAID)

  1. One book that changed your life?
    Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. (I know, that’s three books. Whatever)
  1. One book you have read more than once?
    Fire and Hemlock
    , by Diana Wynne Jones. I try and read it once a year.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
The Last Samurai
, by Helen DeWitt (entirely unrelated to the evil Tom Cruise movie). Or Winnie the Pooh.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Doing It, by Melvin Burgess

5. One book that made you cry?
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. Heaven Eyes by David Almond.

6. One book you wish had been written?
The last book in the Obernewtyn series by Isobelle Carmody.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?
Barbara Baynton’s Bush Studies.

8. One book you are currently reading?
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire. Preperation before I see the musical in London. I am never going to be able to watch The Wizard of Oz again. Glinda is a MOLE.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
*looks timidly at menacingly high pile of unread books*
*winces*
Erm. I don't want to pick one, in case the others get angry.

10. Now I’m supposed to tag five people, but as I’m tired, you can bloody well tag yourselves…

28 July 2006

Talkin' bout my generation

I attended a seminary thing this week about Generation Y, run by Peter Sheehan.

For those who aren’t sure, Gen Y is kids born between 1979 and 1994. So I am one. It was a foregone conclusion that I was going to love the seminary thing, because if there’s one thing we Gen Y’s love hearing about – it’s ourselves. (as an only child, I have a bit of a double whammy when it comes to the all-about-me thing).

So, this, in no particular order, is what I learnt about my generation:

-we stay at home longer, because we like our parents. We have very compatible values, often watch the same TV shows and listen to the same music. Our parents brought us up with a friendship model, as opposed to an authoritarian one.

-we are the first truly global generation – a Y living in Melbourne will be much the same as a Y living in Tokyo or Boston.

-we thrive on being connected.

-we laugh in the face of the ‘career path’ and promotion system. Instead of starting at the bottom and slowly working our way up, we start at an entry level job, and then leave for another job that is a bit better, zig-zagging our way to the top. It’s estimated that Gen X change jobs 8-9 times in their lives. Gen Y are predicted to change jobs 20-30 times, over 10 different industries, 5 of which don’t exist yet.

-we are early adopters, and we love change. An example:

The amount of time that it takes for a new technology to reach a critical mass of 50 000 users:
radio: 34 years television: 13 years internet: 4 years instant messaging: 4 months

-we are mature, resilient, fast learners, practical, manipulative, self-centred, politically apathetic, optimistic, largely oblivious to advertising, friends with our parents, easily bored, materialistic, concerned about the environment/social issues.


Someone at the seminar protested that kids today are the same as kids fifty years ago. Peter asked everyone what video games they used to play. This is what we found:

Baby boomers:
Pinball.
Object of game: Stop ball from falling in hole.

Gen X:
Frogger.
Object of game: Help frog cross road without getting squished.

Gen Y:
Everquest.
Object of game: to join together with other players (there are about 500 000 of them, 50 000 of which are playing right now) to kill monsters for experience and money, as well as explore the enormous world, socialise, join guilds and duel. Everquest money/experience/items are sold online for real world money, which makes Everquest the 17th richest economy in the world, with a per-capita GDP higher than China or India.

Yeah. Sure kids haven’t changed.

25 July 2006

How many book-industry people does it take to screw in a lightglobe?

I have said it before, and I'll say it again: it takes more than one person to write a book. And lucky for me, many of those people have blogs. So here, for your my reading entertainment, is my report on How a Book is Made, illustrated by Other People's Blogs.

1. We start with the authors. Some of my favourite bloggy authors are Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, Penni Russon, Margo Lanagan, and my mum Carole Wilkinson. To name just a few. These people take the first step, and write the book.

2. (this step is optional) The author sends his/her book to an agent. For how not to do this, refer to Miss Snark (for snarkiness) and PubRants (for useful tips). I'm also sticking the Evil Editor in this category, because he talks about book queries.

3. The author (or agent) finds a publisher. (my publisher blogs here)

4. The publisher assigns an editor. There are many, many editors who blog. The Editrix is a children's book editor. Brooklyn Arden is Scholastic children's book editor Cheryl Klein's blog (yes, that's American Scholastic, which means Harry Potter). The Buried Editor is also in children's publishing, but small-press.

5. While the book gets edited, it also gets designed. There's a great interview (with pictures) with Paul Buckley, the guy who makes beautiful things at Penguin UK (I know, it's not a blog. But it's interesting). For American books, check out the blog about NYT book reviewed covers. But the thing that's really floating my boat right now is interior book design (and no, I don't mean books about where to put your couch and what kind of wallpaper is fashionable). And the ultimate interior book design blog is India Ink.

6. Then it all gets put together, and copyedited and proofread and stuff. And publicised and marketed. I could have put Anna Louise from Tor in the editing category, but she's written some epic and invaluable stuff about P&Ls, which everyone should go and read.

7. Then the book is sent away and printed. I have no blog for this one. (quick! look at this clip of Chariots of Fur from Monsterpiece Theatre!)

8. Oh, you think it's over? Now you have to go and be reviewed in important literary journals, and then actually sold in bookshops.

9. Then people read the books. And talk about them. Lots and lots of people.

10. Then people write comics about the books. Which is just cool.

There is, of course, another option, which is self-publishing, or POD (print on demand). POD-dy Mouth is a masochistic dedicated blogger who reads lots and lots of POD to find the diamonds in the rough.

Did I miss anything? (I'm sure I did)

24 July 2006

Joan's Crack

Our Joan (the one out the front of the Library) has a crack. She's having radiation to check how deep it is, and if it's fixable. The whole front of the library has been cordoned off with DANGER - RADIATION stickers everywhere.

I have to say when I saw them I was hoping that it was something a bit more exciting. Like that they'd discovered that the Joan statue is really a NUCLEAR WEAPON planted in Melbourne by the Evil French a la Greeks bearing gifts.

But at least I got to make the joke about Joan's crack.

22 July 2006

The end... or not

So, I finished the novel last weekend.

This is, in many respects, a bald-faced lie. More correct to say:

So, I reached the conclusion of my planned narrative arc last weekend.

Meaning, I finished the first draft.

It is 210 A4 pages long, or 77643 words. I'm considering cutting out 1100 words so it will be 76543, because that's a cooler number.

It is 31 chapters, but I reckon it should be 30, because it's better. Although 31 is a prime number, so Mark Haddon would be pleased. And maybe Reason.

In case anybody cares, there are no passive sentences, and the document has a Flesch Reading Level of 87.4%. Whatever that means.

The final and most important thing that you should know about my first draft is this:

it's crap.

I'm not being self-deprecating here, because those of you who know me can attest that I don't really go in for that sort of thing. The book is crap because it is a first draft. I haven't even read through it yet. This is maybe 1/3 of my journey complete, and even less of the actual Book's journey (it gets to do things like Be Designed and Go To The Printer that I'm not really involved in).

Next step: read and cringe, red pen on hand.

(actually the next step is to finish the glossary for an educational text I'm doing called Going Shopping. Yeah baby, it's 24 pages of fascinating supermarket-related information that is going to go straight to the top of the bestseller list. Move over, Dan Brown and JK Rowling.)

(any suggestions on how to explain EFTPOS to a child are welcome)

17 July 2006

How do you write about Australia when it doesn't exist?

Because it didn't, in 1814. It was just New South Wales. The people who lived there were mostly British, or identified themselves as belonging to a tribe, not a nation.

It's hard to look at your country through the eyes of a stranger, but that's what I'm trying to do. Australia is a country of such contradictions - stunningly beautiful, but also ugly and deadly.

Take cockatoos, for example. They're beautiful. Just beautiful. Snow-white feathers, beady black eyes and an amazing crest of yellow-gold. Gorgeous.

Until it opens its beak, and out comes the most the second most horrifying noise ever heard. See? Beautiful, but ugly.

What, I hear you asking, is the most horrifying noise ever heard? Any Aussies reading this should easily be able to answer that. I'll give you a clue. It's cute as a card full of buttons. It's furry. It has big, vulnerable eyes. It has sex in your roof.

Awww. Isn't he cute? Until he starts getting his rocks off with his lady friend about two feet from your trying-to-sleep head. Little fucker.

But apart from the animals, what else is there? What else makes Australia Australia?

-bugs (we got lots of bugs)
-sun (getting sunburnt)
-the smell of eucalyptus
-browny-grey-green

What else?

(and no, things like Ken Done tea-towels and Vegemite don't count. We're talking early-nineteenth-century, baby colony type stuff. they didn't even have Strine yet)

13 July 2006

Three reasons to love Margo Lanagan

1. she is a truly awesome writer. If you haven't read Black Juice, then go and do so immediately. It's amazing in so many different ways. Trust me. (and for those of you who already love her, I have her new collection, Red Spikes, sitting here on my desk in manuscript form, so ner-ner).

2. she is an excellent and interesting blogger, as was evidenced on insideadog.

3. she says lovely things about me and Joan on her blog.

10 July 2006

Memories of working in a bookshop...

I just posted this as a comment on Literary Gas, and because tonight I will be taking Rita to her puppy school graduation ceremony (yes, I'm serious), it can be the blog post that I meant to write tonight...

my working-in-a-bookshop story:

me: Hi, can I help you?

she: (in a peculiar accent that you only find in shopping centres some distance from the city) Yeah. You know that man who wrote Lord of the Rings?

me: (dubiously) ye-es.

she: What's his latest book?

me: He's dead.

she: No, no. There's a new one. There was a thing in the Herald Sun.

me: No. He's dead. He's been that way for quite some time.

she: There's a new book!

me: (trying to be helpful) There's a movie.

she: (scowling) I'm not stupid.

me: (thinking of her brother and his baseball bat) Oh, no.

she: It's called The Goblin.

me: (sigh)...

she: What?

me: It's called The Hobbit.

she: Whatever. Do you have it?

me: Sure. But he's still dead.

This makes me very happy







What Teen Angst Novel are You? - funny, lots of results, with pix, from the author of The Boyfriend List




LOOKING FOR ALASKA, by John Green. Sad, Funny, boozy, thought-provoking. Go read it. It's you.
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05 July 2006

Reprint

My book is being reprinted! Only two months after publication!

It's getting a slightly different cover, with pull-quotes from The Age ("surely a dream come true...") and Children's Bookseller & Publisher ("history is compellingly brought to life... the reader is instantly engaged"). The cover will also be a brighter red, as some people commented that it was too dark.

I will try and post it here when I am allowed...

28 June 2006

the readings of a lili

my new favourite website. it's like myspace, but for books. i am using it to keep track of all the books i have read this year. other people use it like a catalogue of their own books.

you will note the shiny new addition to the rhs bar of this blog, with five random books that i have read in 2006...

excuse me while i go and dissolve in a puddle of geeky joy...

library thing

my library thing page

25 June 2006

On romance

I've been asked quite a bit what this latest book is about. And I say, 'ohh, it's about convicts and fairytales and giant white bears'. Which perhaps is not a great way to describe it. What it really is, is a romance (that happens to involve convicts and fairytales and giant white bears'.

Romance is really, really hard. How do you say all those things that everyone in the world feels, without sounding cliched?

(it's even harder, because the Love Interest in my book is absent for pretty much everything apart from the first and last 20 pages)

So how do I do it? How do I make someone fall in love in a new and original way.

on a not entirely unrelated note, a song is currently playing on my iTunes that I think is deeply romantic in an unexpected way:
It’s the crack of noon
And I sit here watching you sleeping
I only wish that I could remember your name


I'm trying to put together a list of things that make someone love someone. Things from songs and books and films and (of course) from my own life. I won't use them all, many of them won't even belong to Thomas. But it's one of those "write 15 things down and maybe there'll be 2 good ones" things.

-his spectacles sit crooked
-he bites his nails
-he always pauses before he speaks, really thinking it through
-his arms are too long for his shirt sleeves

Any suggestions?

20 June 2006

Over boats

Right. She's off the boat. Huzzah!

So, I'm sure everyone's dying to know the result of my challenge to define some nautical terms.

beakhead
colloquially known as "the heads". It's a small platform at the fore part of the upper deck, where the crew go to do their business over the water.

knightheads
the two timbers rising from the keel which support the inner end of the bowsprit. They were sometimes decorated with a carving of a head.

scantlings
a measurement of prescribed size. it's the collective dimensions of the various bits of the ship.

tumblehome
the narrowing of a ship's hull with greater distance above the water-line, ie. the beam at the uppermost deck is less than the maximum beam of the ship.

bulwark
the woodwork running round the ship above the level of the deck.

Nautical Terminology #7: The bitter end

Bitter end
The end of an anchor cable is fastened to the bitts at the ship's bow. When the whole anchor cable has been payed out, you have come to the bitter end.

17 June 2006

Nautical Terminology #6: touch and go

Touch and go
The bottom of the ship touching the bottom of the ocean, but not getting stuck.

15 June 2006

Nautical Terminology #5: slush fund

This one's for anyone out there involved in the world of publishing who has had to grapple with a slush pile (either from being in it, or having to read it).

Slush fund
Slush is a greasy substance obtained by boiling or scraping the fat from empty salted meat storage barrels, or the scummy fat that floata on top of the kettle when boiling the crew's meal. Yummy. This stuff belonged to the cook, who could sell or exchange it, either to the crew, who would use it to crease parts of the ship's running rigging, or ashore. Money obtained by the cook for his slush was called a slush fund.

14 June 2006

Nautical Terminology #4: Son of a gun

Son of a gun
The space between the guns was used as a semi-private place for trysts with prostitutes and wives, which sometimes lead to pregnancies.

13 June 2006

Nautical Terminology #3: Chock-a-block

Chock-a-block
Rigging blocks that are so tight against one another that they cannot be further tightened.

12 June 2006

Nautical Terminology #2: Press Gang

This nautical term is dedicated to Snaz, for her vibrant imagination, and for getting up early on a cold wintry morning to come and walk the puppy with me.

Press Gang
When there weren't enough people in the Navy (ie. during the Napoleonic wars), the navy had to get able seamen to 'volunteer' to join. Except 'able seamen' was often defined as 'hanging about near the sea' or 'drinking at a pub near the sea', and 'volunteer' meant 'being chased by a gang of Navy people and sat on until you agreed to go on the ship'. The men who 'persuaded' the 'seamen' to 'volunteer' were called Press Gangs. (from the French prest meaning 'loan': you got an advance on your wages if you agreed to volunteer)

(a different sort of press gang)

11 June 2006

Nautical Terminology #1: Toe the Line

Did you know that dressing down, over a barrel, under the weather, three sheets to the wind and footloose are all nautical terms?* This week I'm going to geek out procrastinate explore my love of etymology.

Toe the line
At parade, sailors and soldiers were required to stand in line, their toes in line with a seam of the deck.


*not to mention cut of his jib, taken aback, square meal, rummage sale, pipe down, in the offing, know the ropes, cunt splice (yes, that was cunt splice) and pooped.

10 June 2006

Learning about boats

*note: this blog post is going to use the word "boat" instead of the word "ship", just to piss off any people who actually know about boats, who may be reading. sorry guys, i just think it's funny.

So. I need to learn about boats. Because of the Book. The main character spends about 2/3 of the book on a boat. I have written lots of the stuff on the boat, leaving out big holes. Like this:

Hannah climbed up the ladder to the ?? deck. She leaned against the ??, and stared up at the ??. The wind whistled through the ?? and made the ??s flap against the ??.

I need to learn about boats. And I've watched many episodes of Hornblower (mmm...sailory men...) and gone on a couple of replica boats, and taken photos, and watched Master & Commander (mmm... paul bettany with a cello...). But I still don't know my ?? from my ??.

I have bought a book called The 50-Gun Ship: A Complete History, by Rif Winfield. I would have rathered something designed for 12 year old boys with lots of clear labels, easy-to-understand language and cross-sections, but this will do.

And to ensure that I actually LEARN something from this book, and don't just leave it on my bookshelf looking Impressive, I am going to issue myself a challenge:


This time next week, I will tell all of my faithful readers what the following are:

beakhead
knightheads
scantlings (sounds like a nice title for a novel...)
tumblehome (so does that)
bulwark

I encourage you, in the meantime, to come up with your own creative definitions. (no cheating and looking it up in the dictionary!)

5 reasons why i haven't blogged for a fortnight

1. sick.
2. work.
3. it's really cold, and easier to stay in bed.
4. taking rita for her First Ever Walk.
5. just plain lazy.

28 May 2006

self-congratulatory post

Joan was reviewed in The Age yesterday. This is my favourite bit:

Wilkinson never condescends to her young readers but her history is accessible and interesting. Surely a dream come true for any history teacher.

I very much like the "never condescends" bit, because that's something I feel very strongly about. However, the last sentence means that any young person reading the review will be immediately turned off, but how many young people read the literary pages of The Age anyway? Let's face it, there's not much for them there. Still, a message to any brave young thing daring to venture past the reviews of architectural theory books and histories of the first world war: in Joan there are also some gruesome battles, and references to tuberculosis of the brain brought on by drinking unpasteurised cow's milk. And pants. Pants are very important.

I like being referred to as "Wilkinson". Makes me feel very grown up.

27 May 2006

But seriously...

it's all very well and good to post here about star-crossed seals and Eurovision, but if this is going to be a true procrastinatory tool, I suppose I should start doing it properly.

You see, I'm writing another book. A novel. And I spose this blog is as good a tool as any to a) try out some ideas on the unsuspecting readers; b) pretend I know what I'm talking about and c) procrastinate from actually writing said novel.

So the dilemma I'm faced with today, is that my character (her name is Hannah) has just arrived in Rio. She's never been there before. Neither have I. So far we have stuff in common. What we don't have in common, is that I live in 2006, and she lives in an unspecified year around about 1814.

So my first task is to figure out what the hell Rio looks like now. So we go to Flickr.
(thanks to The Mighty Jimbo for his lovely photo)

Looks purty. I also go to Google Earth and Wikipedia, just to figure out exactly where her ship would have anchored and all that. Then I'll just take out all the big buildings, and be generally vague.

I have this lovely playlist for writing this book, with inspiring floaty, soulful things like Bach and Bjork and David Bridie and Vangelis. Except what I have stuck in my head is I Go To Rio, sung by The Muppets.

Then I have this fantastic idea that she should be eating some kind of tropical fruit. This will serve a few different purposes. One is to just generally give an exotic feeling of tropical authenticity. Another is because she has been practically starving eating dried meat and crap on a boat for three months, and I'm feeling sorry for her. Finally, it will be the instigator for a Rather Important Dramatic Moment, which I am not going to disclose (but as a clue: I told my mum, and she said "eewww... Is that actually possible?").

So of course I have to figure out what kind of tropical fruit she is eating. It can't be anything too exotic, but exotic enough that it's foreign to her. She doesn't know what it's called, so it has to be something the reader can recognise. Back I go to Wikipedia.

Orange? Nope. Introduced to Europe in the 15th century. Plus, they're from India, not South America. But I do learn that the colour orange is named for the fruit, not the other way around.

Banana? Also from India. And while exotic, bananas were available in Europe. No good. I need something she's never seen before. But did you know that Alexander the Great ate his first banana in 327BC? Bananas rank fourth after rice, wheat and maize in global human consumption. And they're a herb (in the botanical sense. That means they don't have a woody stem, and they are either annual and perennial. Like daffodils.)

Hmm. Pineapples and passionfruit are too hard to get into. Lychees, papaya and guava are too exotic.

Mango? It's from the same family as poison ivy. The Indians call it the food of the gods. Bugger, another bloody Indian fruit. Does any actual fruit grow in South America? Does South America even exist??? Has anyone ever actually BEEN there???
(sorry)
However, it was introduced and cultivated in the Americas by the Portugese as early as the 17th century. Rio is a Portugese city. They would have had mangos. I also learn that paisley (the design) is inspired by the mango.

Mango it is. Now the only challenge is to write about a young girl enjoying a mango without it sounding... well, dirty.